Smoking like you mean it

When I first learned to smoke with wood more than a decade ago, it was not a pretty sight. I used an El Cheapo Brinkman for my first smoked ribs. I lit the coals. I added wood. I added ribs. I checked it about every 10 minutes and after an hour decided I was doing it all wrong and ended up finishing them in the oven. I panicked. Pure and simple.

As every good (or mediocre, in my case) competition BBQ cook knows, wood rules. And no gas. And definitely no electric. Actually, you can’t compete on the circuit with either gas or electric so it’s a moot point. But if you even brought it up in Friday night drinking conversation at a contest, you’d be looked at as if you’d offered your endorsement of liquid smoke.

I’m over all that now. I don’t compete anymore so I don’t need to worry about being shamed. I still use lump charcoal and wood at times, but I’ve found the best “set it and forget it” smoker ever. EVER. The Char-Broil® Digital Smoker. And it’s electric.  I say that without regret or embarrassment.

And, yes, it’s a Char-Broil. I should be clear that I do some blogging for Char-Broil for three reasons. It’s a family run company with family values, their products are reliable and I do like to run on at the mouth from time to time. They do send me new equipment to try out. If it didn’t work perfectly, I’d just never mention it on the blog. I would never steer you wrong. But I’ve never had even a remote disappointment.

So this is what it looks like:

Digital Smoker 1

Kind of like a dorm fridge that makes really good smoked food. When we competed as the Chicks in Charge we used a Backwoods Smoker that looked just like this but not digital and pretty. For my test run, I decided on a bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin because tenderloins take about an hour in the smoker and you’ve wrapped them in bacon. Duh.

And here is all you have to do: Plug it in and add wood chips to the wood box on preheat to get them smoking. Set the temperature (225 in this case), put the digital probe in the tenderloins and set the desired internal temperature (145 for rosy) and shut the door. Go have a cocktail. The digital smoker will beep at you when the tenderloins are done.

 Digital Smoker 2 See the smoke? The smoker box is at the bottom right.

Here is my minor disappointment with Char-Broil. They do not understand the beauty of heavy duty aluminum foil. Were I to write the instruction manual for the digital smoker, I would say put every meat on a baking sheet lined with heavy duty aluminum foil. Or in an aluminum half pan for big cuts like pork butts or beef brisket. The meat gets all the smoke it needs and there’s no clean up.

The absolute worst part about competitions was cleaning up the smoker after turn in. Yuck. Grease everywhere. I’ll be able to use this digital smoker for years without ever breaking out a sponge.

So here is what I got with absolutely no worry about temperature control, proper air venting or charcoal replacement:

Digital Smoker 3

Super juicy, smoky pork tenderloin without any effort. Maybe you want effort. I’m over that, too. Especially if you’re cooking for company. You tend that old-fashioned smoker all you want while I have another glass of Chardonnay. Go ahead.

So here’s the bottom line for me. I have a Big Green Egg, which is a great smoker/grill. I love it more than my life (almost), but it takes a good long while to heat it up, adjust the temperature, replace charcoal and clean up after the cook. I love this digital smoker as much for the same reason I love my Char-Broil gas grills. You don’t need to plan a week in advance to cook something. You just do it on the spur of the moment. Life is short. Live it up.


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